THE HISTORY OF BÁNH MÌ
Bánh Mì (pronounced BUN-mee) is the Vietnamese term for “bread”, but it also refers to a special kind of sandwich: a culinary fusion of two cultures and a prime example of how food is always tied with history…
The story begins in the mid-19th century when Vietnam fell under French colonial rule. The French brought their baguette with them, and the Vietnamese people began to eat their bread much like they did – typically with a platter of cold cuts, butter, cheese and/or pâté.
It wasn’t until 1954 when French rule ended that the Vietnamese people finally began to impose their own influences on the French sandwich: mayonnaise replaced butter, cilantro and fresh chillies were added for flavour, and pickled vegetables were also thrown in the mix.
While this distinctly Vietnamese style of sandwich was first born in the streets of Saigon, it wasn’t long until new food carts and restaurants spread across the country to supply people with these savoury, and especially affordable, sandwiches.
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, millions of Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Vietnam War ended up in major American and European cities, thereby introducing bánh mì to their new communities. Over time, the Vietnamese sandwich grew immensely popular and has now become an international sandwich sensation. Today, bánh mì can be found in restaurants, bakeries, street vendors and food trucks all over the world!
THE ANATOMY OF BÁNH MÌ
To the uninitiated, bánh mì is an airy, crunchy French-styled baguette stuffed with a combination of meats, vegetables and other condiments. While balancing different textures and temperatures, bánh mì also has a flavor profile that is off the charts: salty, sour, savory, sweet, and aromatic all at once! As it has grown to become a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, so has its versatility: you can swap Vietnamese cold cuts for more traditional protein like grilled pork or chicken, substitute soy for a few dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce, or simply go all-veggie! Though there are many variations that can cater to anyone, here are the main ingredients that typically make up a bánh mì sandwich:
- BREAD: airy, crispy French-styled baguette
- PROTEIN: Vietnamese ham, steamed pork roll or other meats
- VEGETABLES: sliced cucumber, pickled carrot & daikon
- HERBS & SPICES: crisp cilantro, fresh chilis and/or jalapeño
- CONDIMENTS: pâté, butter, mayonnaise or soy sauce